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Basic equipment equals fun ice fishing

Part 1

Editor's note: The story below is the second in a four-part series about a fun activity to do in Utah in the winter — ice fishing! The series explains the benefits of fishing through the ice and provides tips to get beginning anglers started. Experienced anglers should learn something too. Part one: Cold ice, hot fishing

You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to catch fish through the ice in Utah.

You don't need a lot of fishing equipment to catch fish through the ice

You don't need a lot of equipment to catch fish through the ice.

Photo by Drew Cushing, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

A short fishing rod and reel, a few sinkers and hooks, and a package of worms are about all you need. In fact, if you just want to give ice fishing a try, you don't even need an ice auger.

Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says when you visit an ice-covered water in Utah, you'll usually find plenty of holes that have been drilled by other anglers. "If the holes were drilled just a day or two before," he says, "they'll have only an inch or two of ice in them. Just break that thin ice, and you're in business."

If you'd like to create your own holes, you'll need an ice auger or a digging bar. A way to create a hole — and the most basic fishing equipment you can imagine — are all you need to catch lots of fish and have lots of fun.

You can stay updated on where fishing is best in Utah this winter at wildlife.utah.gov/hotspots.

Two additional websites — bigfishtackle.com and utahwildlife.net — also provide updated information.

Simple and affordable

In addition to warm clothes and insulated, waterproof boots, Cushing says the following gear is all you need to catch fish through the ice in the winter:

  • A short fishing rod and a small reel.
  • Some small hooks or jigs, and some sinkers.
  • A package of wax worms or meal worms.

    Cushing says wax worms and meal worms are easy to keep alive in the winter. And they'll last a long time on your hook.

    "Wax worms or meal worms are the best worms to use in the winter," Cushing says. "All of the fish you can catch through the ice in Utah will take these worms."

  • If you like to fish with lures, buy some small ice flies or small jigs. Ice flies and jigs come in several colors. Cushing says chartreuse and red are the two colors that usually produce best when fishing through the ice in Utah. "Make sure you buy a variety of colors, though," he says. "That way, you'll have the color the fish want on any given day."

    Also, place a small piece of worm or other bait on the tip of the lure's hook. Having a piece of bait on your hook will increase the chance that a fish bites the lure and hangs onto the hook.

  • A digging bar or an ice auger. A manual ice auger (one you turn by hand) costs about $50. You can pick up a digging bar for as little as $5 to $10.

    Cushing says some anglers use gas-powered augers. But a gas-powered auger usually isn't needed.

    "If you have a hand auger," he says, "you can drill through six to eight inches of ice in about a minute. Unless you're trying to drill through two feet of ice, you probably don't need a gas-powered auger."

  • Because fish bite softly in the winter, you may also want to buy attachments that will help you detect the subtle bites of the fish. Spring bobbers and various floats are among the items that will help you know you have a fish on the end of your line.

Videos

More ice fishing basics are available in six videos produced by the DWR.

Part 3

Next week's story will help you catch fish through the ice using the simple equipment mentioned in this story.

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